Although Bali has inhabited for millennia, its written history does not begin until the 8th century, when the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Java began journeying to the island. The Javanese spread their religious teachings to Bali, along with the knowledge of writing in the old Javanese language, which soon become the medium of communication for Bali’s elites. By the 10th century, Balinese art, religion and culture had taken on decidedly Indian appearance.

One important relic of this era is found in the village of Sanur, the Prasasti Belanjong, an inscribed monument dated 913 A.D, making it Bali’s oldest dated artifact.

Many contemporary Balinese trace their history back to the 14th century, when the Javanese kingdom of Majapahit sent an army to the island led by the famed general Gajah Mada. The arrival of the Majapahit Empire brought vast changes to the cultural, religious and political landscape of Bali. Only the people known as the Bali Aga, living in their isolated mountain villages, remained unaffected by the new social order.

Under the rule of Majapahit, Balinese culture flourished around the royal courts. Elaborate rituals were stayed, and art, dance and music thrived with the patronage of Bali’s kings.

Although neighboring Java was already under Dutch colonial control by the 1600s, Bali remained free. In 1846, the Dutch led a military force against North Bali, but they met with stunning defeat when they faced down a fear some army led by a Balinese commander, Gusti Ketut Djelantik. To the great embarrassment of the Dutch until 1849, when the Balinese were defeated by an army from neighboring Lombok, who saw a chance to take control of Bali as themselves.

Eventually, the Dutch and the Balinese signed a treaty giving the colonial powers to rule over the North of Bali, and a tense peace held until the turn of the 20th century. It was not until 1908, when the Dutch destroyed the kingdoms of South Bali in the infamous PUPUTAN, or fight to the death, that the island fell under European control.

The Dutch rule Bali until the World War II, when the Japanese occupied the Indonesian archipelago. In 1945, the nation of Indonesia proclaimed its independence and Bali was granted the status of a province since August 14, 1958.

Although Bali is now a part of modern state, hosting hundreds of thousands of foreign tourist every year, in many ways it is still very traditional. In matter of culture and religion, Balinese take care to preserve their ancient way of life for generations to come.

The island of Bali is blessed with incredible natural health. From sparkling seas and soft sand beaches to cool volcanic highlands covered with lush green rice fields and colorful tropical foliage, the landscape offer postcard perfect panoramas at every turns. Bali’s overwhelming environmental beauty is in part a happy result of its geography. Tucked in between hotter, more humid Java to the west and drier Lombok to the east, and surrounded by the cool blue of the Indian Ocean, the island sits just eight degrees south of the equator.
 
This location provides it with a mild tropical climate, fresh sea breezes and abundant rainfall. A rocky spine of volcanoes some of them are still active bisect the island, bringing fertility to the fields in the form of rich volcanic soil and rainwater from the clouds blanketing the high peaks. This geothermal activity also bubbles up in the hot springs that dot island, places where the visitors can bathe in the warm mineral waters reputed to heal illness and certain to refresh the soul.
 
The climate of Bali is gentle, with average temperatures ranging between 25 and 30 degree Celsius. Although travellers from colder areas may think of Bali as the island of endless summer, there are actually two seasons, the dry season which lasts from April to October and the rainy season which lasts from November to March.
 
The temperatures during the rainy season are a bit higher, reaching its peak in December and January, but the heat is broken by the soft shower and torrential downpours that marks the monsoon. The rains rarely last long, and they are followed by the sweet smell of the Lang washed clean and the shimmering beauty of the foliage dripping with fresh color.
 
For a place that has inspired so many legends, Bali is surprisingly small, stretching only 90 kilometers from North to South, and 135 kilometers from West to East. But within this area there is a stunning range of contrasts.
 
The South is Bali’s “rice bowl”, where the grain that provides the major portion of the Balinese diet and inspires a good part of its mythology and ritual activity grows in lush wet fields irrigated with the mountain water that flows down from the North through a complex series of channels.
 
The center and East part of the island is covered with rolling hills and high mountains, and the West coast is home to Bali only national park, The West Bali National Park, much of which is virgin rainforest. With so much to choose from, it would take a lifetime to explore all the natural wealth of Bali.

Although Bali has been welcoming tourist for over than a century, its culture and arts remain as strong as ever, testimony to the devotion Balinese feel for their island tradition. Tourism has even brought a renaissance to the Balinese arts, especially dance and dramatic performance. Encouraged by the appreciation shown by the foreigners, Bali’s artistic groups are flourishing as never before.

No visit to Bali would be complete without watching a performance of Balinese dance. Whether it’s the delicate beauty of the Legong dance, where angelic young’s girls move with breath taking grace to the exotic sound of a GAMELAN orchestra, or the spellbinding magic of the Calonarang drama where the evil witch RANGDA does battle with the legendary Barong and his dagger-wielding followers, or the spine-tinglingachon of the Kecak, whose hundred men chorus sends up an eerie symphony into the night air, a performance of dance is sure to be one of the most memorable moments of any traveller’s experience.

Balinese are also famous for their textile arts, wood and stone carvings, and crafts. Hand-woven clothes are use as ceremonial clothing or ritual decorations, and many of them are believed to possess not just aesthetic value but spiritual powers as well. Hand-carved masks are another art inseparable from religious belief, and performers of masked drama will make offerings for their masks to bring them to life before the performance. Elaborately carved stone and wood adorns Bali’s temples houses and the talents of Balinese craftspeople are evident in the statues and handicrafts available for sale in Bali’s market.

Bali also has a long tradition of painting, and Bali’s museums and galleries have collected many classic examples. Traditional paintings were primarily religious works, made as offerings of beauty and piety to please the Gods and to illustrate religious teachings. Even today some Balinese still paint in the traditional “shadow puppet style”, telling tales from the ancient Hindu epics. Beginning in the 1930′s, Balinese began to experiment with Western painting techniques, leading to an explosion of creativity in the Bali’s art world. Today one can see paintings in a wide variety of styles, expressing the cosmopolitan combination of cultural influences that is modern Bali.

Bali is an amazingly fertile and beautiful island. Nature has combined to offer a place with high mountain lakes, jungle, a selection of climates and wildlife. The southern section of Bali is very fertile and Tabanan district in the SW is where most of the rice is grown. NW and NE Bali tends to be very dry with a dry scrub landscape. The Bukit peninsula in the far south is a limestone plateau that is unsuitable for rice growing, local people resorting to cattle and corn. Inside the Batur crater in the NW section one will find lava fields, the area around Gunung Batukaru jungle and bamboo forests elsewhere on the island. In higher elevations crops such as coffee, cocoa and vanilla are grown, remnants of the Dutch occupation.

Dr. Lawrence Blair, who with his brother Lorne filmed the Ring Of Fire documentary, said that nowhere else does man live in such harmony with nature. After visiting other islands in Indonesia, he was struck by how well the Bali people and their culture blend with the sculptured rice terraces.
One can argue about the effects of rice fields themselves on the eco-system. In some respects the rice fields have altered the eco-system and created another. A flat tray of still freshwater getting baked in the hot sun is definitely a unique environment. The rice-fields are home to frogs, which make a cacophony of sounds at night. Locals like to catch frogs (kodok) for food. The rice fields are also a breeding ground for worms, which the locals keep in check by herding large groups of ducks through. There is also a moth with white patches on its wings. Contact with this moth leaves a type of chemical burn on the skin. Balinese people often plants other things on the sections of land separating the rice fields and one can often see the ladies collecting flowers for ceremonies.

The rice fields look amazing, but the type of rice grown is not the same as a hundred years ago. Exotic varieties of rice have been imported, which have a higher output and this together with the use of fertilizers means Balinese farmers can expect high yields.

The problem is that the watercourses start to get polluted with the runs off from the chemicals. Burning the stalks left over from a rice harvest creates massive amounts of dense white smoke and plough the stalks back into the ground while the field is flooded creates enormous amounts of methane, due to the anaerobic respiration process underwater. This methane traps 4 times the amount of heat as CO2 when it reaches the upper atmosphere. Bali has 5,632 sq. km and 3.1 million people, giving a population density of 559.2 per sq. km. Most of the land in Bali is either developed for housing, shops, temples or agriculture. The largest section of undeveloped land is the Bali Barat National Park.

Bali was once connected to Java and virtually all the flora and fauna on the island came from elsewhere. There are a few incidences of local Balinese variety such as the wani, the giant size white mango. Still the island is quite young geologically and most species can be traced elsewhere.

Common trees found in Bali include the banyan tree, one of which will be next to every major temple. The waringin as the tree is called is referred to as the tree that never dies as its roots touch down to Earth from up above and start a new tree. Another common tree is the frangipani (jepun) with its white flowers.

Bali has 2 seasons, wet and dry, which means its monsoonal climate cannot support varieties of tropical hardwoods that need year round rainfall. Much of the quality wood used for carving and furniture comes from Java and Sulawesi. Local Balinese wood used for handicrafts includes jackfruit, with fast growing bamboo also easy to find.

A trip around Bali which includes the coastal inland and highland areas will offer a multitude of plant varieties. Among the plants commonly found in Bali are champaks, a variety of magnolia, angsoka with red-orange flowers, poinsettia, water lily, hibiscus, bougainvillea, jasmine, and oleander. Orchids are found all over and come in a multitude of varieties. All this sounds great unless you are a hay fever sufferer, meaning the starts of the dry season will not be pleasant for you. For people planning to live in Bali who are interested in gardening, your problem won’t be getting things to grow, but keeping them in check. Evergreens drop leave continually and need constant attention. Bushes and trees can sprout up and reach 2 meters in no time at all, some displaying an almost indestructible nature. Stepping out into your own garden and picking a ripe papaya, or harvesting red chili’s is definitely one of the advantages of living in Bali.